Sunday, January 08, 2012

George Eliot?

My daughter, at 9 years old, asked me about TS Eliot: "Was he the man who betrayed St. Edmund Campion?

"Why no," I said, "TS Eliot was an Oklahoma-born poet and literary critic who moved to England and became one of the most important literary figures of the 20th century. Why do you ask?"

"Because the man who betrayed Edmund Campion was named Eliot. He was George Eliot."

" do you know that?"

"Because, Daddy, I read it in a book from the lending libarary." It so happens that our chaplaincy's lending library is being stored in our basement.

"Hmm. Did you know there was important 19th century novelist...a woman who used the pen name George Eliot?"

Of course she didn't. She's only nine years old, for goodness' sake!

But it makes me wonder. We know why Mary Ann Evans took a pen name. I remember discussing it in my 19th century literature class in college, lo these two decades ago. (Answer: partly for marketing because books by women had a limited market back then; partly for anonymity because she was apparently living a scandalous life).

Why did she choose George Eliot as her pen name? That answer was not readily available via Google, so I must rely on my more literary readers to help out.

Why did she choose "George Eliot" as her pseudonym?


Petal said...

I'm just doing homework with my daughter and we've asked ourselves the same question.

Petal said...

You won't believe it but I just found the answer. She is quoted as saying that she used "George" because it was the first name of her life partner who she lived with but didn't marry and this was unacceptable at the time. (George Henry Lewes). She used "Eliot" as it "sounded good and filled the mouth".